Right between 25 and 26.

Twenty-five was a really amazing year for me.  I have a lot of dreams I still want to accomplish, but when it comes to a bucket list, there have only ever been three items I’ve actually written down. In no particular order, they are:

  • Live in New York
  • Travel to Africa and take photos there for a cause
  • Complete my bachelor's degree (the one I dropped out of to pursue photography).

Twenty-five was good to me but to be totally honest, it was also really hard. It's the year I hit my quarter life crisis. I never believed in quarter life crisis', and then I had one. In short, everything in my life fell apart.  And no, this wasn’t just a break-up, it was so many things beyond that. It was everything else, and the combination of everything all at once that caused me to crack.  It was the best crack that could have ever happened to me. Plus, a quarter life crisis at 25 really just means living to be 100, something I am now determined to achieve.

 Myself with two Congolese boys, in Bandundu, DRC, Africa.

Myself with two Congolese boys, in Bandundu, DRC, Africa.

Twenty-five was the year that I moved to New York (with no job, place to live or money) and had one of the greatest times of my life. Twenty-five was the year that I, by chance, met a lady who asked me to join UNICEF on a trip to Africa to take photos for them. Twenty-five is also the year that I got accepted back into my degree program (after many previous failed attempts). There are so many other wonderful things that happened to me this year, so many other wonderful people I met, but here are some of the things I learned, and the advice I would give to anyone else who is about to turn 25:

(And for all those people who are annoyed with lists, this is another list for you, because that is how my brain works, in lists.)

  1. You are stronger than you think.
  2. Don’t doubt yourself. The intuition inside of you is correct.
  3. Allow yourself to change. Allow yourself to be challenged so that you can learn and grow.
  4. Getting the worst hair cut of your life isn’t as bad as it seems.  It will grow out, and you will even still get to go on dates.
  5. But bangs are never a good idea.
  6. Older people (who are hardly older than you) will still refer to you as a baby in your 20s.
  7. You need to hang out by yourself.  You, as an individual, are going to be in a relationship with yourself for the rest of your life.  Get comfortable with yourself and in your own skin.
  8. Stop wasting time. Get off the Internet and go create something.  
  9. Stop making excuses. All those things you want to go do, go do them already.
  10. Life is going to really hurt sometimes but it is not the end of the world.
  11. You are responsible for your decisions. Embrace them, live with them, make them. 
  12. You do not need to prove yourself to anyone. Who care what everyone else thinks. 
  13. Worrying is the most pointless thing you will do each day, so don’t.
  14. Let go of control. Life is so much better that way.
  15. Sometimes the best food will be three dollar falafel wraps right off the L stop on Bedford Avenue.
  16. Be confident in who you are, but also listen to others when they call you out on stuff. Your friends know you well, too. Take their advice. Don’t be prideful. Listen to them and improve yourself. 
  17. Forgive everyone, including yourself. Forgive others even if they aren’t sorry.
  18. Laugh and smile more. They really do cure anything. Don’t take yourself so seriously. 
  19. Put your relationships first. 
  20. Find something to believe in. Faith can get you through anything.
  21. Own less stuff. It’s incredibly freeing. This means clothing, furniture, gadgets, anything. Just own less of it. 
  22. Life/feelings come in waves, none of which are permanent. Ride them out, don’t be afraid of them. Sad feelings aren’t bad, they are just feelings and they will pass.
  23. Put more effort into the things that you do.
  24. Overcoming your fears is an incredibly rewarding thing. So overcome them.
  25. Go outside as much as you can. Life is better when you experience it.

Tomorrow I turn 26. Here's to you, 26.